Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

S. Gramercy Pl. Cell Tower Installation Denied

Illustration showing the locations of three cell phone tower installations, and screens, proposed for the building at 407 S. Gramercy Pl.

Yes, Virginia, speaking up as a concerned member of the public really can make a difference.

Last summer, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council voted to support a proposal by Verizon Communications to place new cell phone towers behind screened enclosures atop an 87-year-old apartment building at 407 S. Gramercy Pl.  At the time, no neighborhood complaints about the installation had been heard by either the Board or its Land Use Committee, and there didn’t seem to be any opposition to the plan.  The support vote by the GWNC (which does have an established policy discouraging cell tower installations in residential locations, but generally tries to back up neighborhood positions on such issues) was unanimous.

A bit later, however, at a city Zoning Administrator’s hearing on the installation, a large group of the building’s residents testified that they hadn’t heard about the installation until after the GWNC vote, and they were adamantly opposed to to the project, based on aesthetic, health and structural concerns.

After the residents’ testimony, Zoning Administrator Lourdes Green opted to leave the file open for further input for several weeks, and suggested the residents take their concerns back to the GWNC.  They did just that, and at the GWNC’s October meeting, after consideration of the residents’ concerns by both the Land Use Committee and the full Board, the Council rescinded its earlier support and voted, with the neighbors, to oppose the installation.  On Thursday, December 3, the ZA sided with both the residents and the GWNC, as well as the office of City Council Member David Ryu, and denied Verizon’s request for the new antennas.  In her determination letter, Green said that the required findings to issue a Conditional Use Permit for the equipment had not been met.  Specifically, she said, the installation would “not enhance the built environment in the surrounding neighborhood…or provide a service that is essential or beneficial to the community.”  Furthermore, she said the “size, height, operations and other significant features will not be compatible with and will adversely affect or further degrade adjacent properties, the surrounding neighborhood, or the public health, welfare and safety,” and that several more technical requirements of the city’s regulations had not been met either.

Building resident Meryl Jacobs, who helped to collect more than 150 signatures in opposition to Verizon’s application, said she is thrilled with the outcome. “We’re very, very relieved,” she said. “It is possible to defeat behemoth cell phone companies trying to install cell towers in residential neighborhoods.” She added that “People need to know about this.”

Verizon has until December 18 to appeal the ruling.

[12/14/15 1:00 p.m. – This story has been updated to include details from the Zoning Administrator’s determination letter, as well as additional quotes from Ms. Jacobs.]

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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